The city of Lakeland has accelerated its effort to collect tree limbs and other debris piled up in yards following Hurricane Ian. Starting today, trucks from a private trash hauler are beginning a series of debris-collection sweeps estimated to take two to four weeks to complete.

The private contractor hired by the city is supplying eight trucks today and 16 vehicles starting Monday, city Communications Director Kevin Cook said. The focus on collection efforts today will be an area of southeast Lakeland largely bounded by the Polk Parkway on the north, Cleveland Heights Boulevard on the west, Lakeland Highlands Road on the east and Lake Miriam Drive on the south.

In addition, a crew will be removing debris in the downtown and Dixieland areas today, Cook said.

The crews will make several passes of the city, starting in the south and moving north, he said.

“Please remember to separate your storm debris so vegetative debris is in a pile and the non-vegetative (building materials) in a separate pile,” Cook said in a written statement. “Bagged leaves and twigs will be picked-up as yard waste on your normal collection day.  Thank you for being patient as we work to getting our community and neighborhoods back to pre-storm conditions.”

Check the city’s hurricane recovery page for more information and updates.

The city of Lakeland has contracted with DRC Emergency Services to collect the debris and Thompson Consulting Services to track the work and help with reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs associated with storm-related debris pickup.

In unincorporated Polk, the county government has contracted with multiple haulers supplying up to 70 trucks. They are working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and estimating the work will take three to four months to complete, Fox 13 News reported.

Those crews are starting in southern Polk, which was hardest hit. A county map showing the initial areas to be covered includes some portions of unincorporated Polk just east of Lakeland.

The county-hired crews will pick up trees, limbs and other large vegetation on their first pass, bagged debris on the second pass and construction/household items on the third pass, with a possible final sweep, Ryan Taylor, the deputy Polk County manager for infrastructure, told the TV station.

City and county officials ask that loose vegetation, bagged debris and construction/household items be kept in separate files far enough apart for truck claws to operate. In addition, county officials say brown debris bags are preferable to plastic ones so crews can see that the bags contain vegetation rather than household items.

Vegetative debris collected by Lakeland’s contractors will be taken to city property just south of the Glendale Wastewater Reclamation Facility, where it will be ground into mulch, Public Works Director Heath Frederick told city commissioners on Monday.

Yard waste collected by the county’s contractors is being taken to several locations, including Loyce Harpe Park in south Lakeland, Simmers-Young Park in Winter Haven, Van Fleet Drive and U.S. 17 in Bartow and a rural site off Keen Road in Frostproof, county officials said.

Debris at Loyce Harpe Park will temporarily make soccer fields there inaccessible, county officials confirmed.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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